MP advocates tougher penalties for animal cruelty

RIA Novosti / Pavel Lisitsyn
A Russian lawmaker has drafted a bill toughening the punishment for cruelty to animals, citing requests from concerned citizens and groups and also experts’ claims that those who are cruel to animals can become dangerous to people.

Oleg Lebedev of the Communist Party proposes an increase in the minimum punishment for cruel treatment of animals (a criminal offense in Russia) from the current fine of 80,000 rubles (about US$1300) or the convict’s income over a six-month period up to 160,000 rubles ($2600) or one year’s income. The maximum punishment is increased from six months to one year of detention.

If the offense is committed by an organized group or by two or more people the maximum punishment is increased from current two years in prison to four years behind bars with an additional ban to assume certain public posts for five years.

Lebedev said in an interview with Izvestia daily that his move was prompted by numerous approaches from Russian NGOs. These were apparently inspired by mass media reports of terrible incidents involving professional dog catchers and communal workers, and also amateur ‘dog hunters’. He added that the public discussion of the bill would also bring some good as right now a lot of citizens are simply unaware the cruelty to animals carries criminal responsibility.

Animal rights groups predictably supported the move. Deputy head of the Moscow Society for Protection of Animals, Kirill Goryachev, noted that if the bill is passed, cases of cruelty to animals would become “medium grave crimes” and this would give the police additional incentive to investigate them.

However, shortly before Lebedev announced his plans a terrible tragedy took place in the Siberian city of Chita – a pack of stray dogs mauled a nine –year-old boy to death. State Duma MP Iosif Kobzon, who was on a visit to the region, told a press conference on Monday that stray dogs should be caught and exterminated and no attention should be given to the efforts of the environmentalists who try to defend the animals.

Kobzon pointed out that after Chita authorities introduced an emergency situation in the city and launched a major hunt on stray animals a number of activists staged protests targeting the city and regional officials.

But this is only one lethal case and we have a lot of people who had been bitten! What activists are we talking about? Only radical measures can solve the issue!” the MP said.